Originally Posted by Santorofan
Surely a sign of greatness when players from Wills all the way to Evert are compared to you - Connolly certainly set the standard as one of the top two or three female baseliners of all time. Speaking for myself, I would've loved to have watched Maureen play Althea in her prime on a grass court*. From what I recall, the two competed well before Gibson reached her heights, though certainly Connolly would hold the edge - even on grass - regardless.
*Another variable to consider; might Gibson've significantly improved had she not been lured into the pro ranks after such a brief time at the top? Was her coaching/training on par with Connolly's? Also, it seems class issues affected Gibson's career more significantly than a player like Connolly, who (it seems reasonable to gather) like Wills would've quite likely just kept on playing, piling up perhaps 12-15 more GS titles.
Racism is what hurt Althea Gibson's tennis career. Althea wasn't denied a chance to enter the top tournaments because she was poor. They didn't let her play because she was black. From 1944-1949, Althea wasn't allowed to play in the top tournaments and as a result she couldn't play the top players. There's no question it hurt her game.
With Althea it's tough to say what might have happened had she been allowed to play during those formative years. When she started playing against the top players in 1950, she struggled. As far as I know she never beat Doris Hart. Now maybe if Althea had been allowed to play in the top tournaments and against those players in the mid to late 40s, maybe things would have been different.
As for Maureen I don't think things would have been that different. Althea was eight years older than Maureen and Maureen's game was still improving in the mid 50s. As it was, Althea never beat Maureen. To paraphrase Clint Eastwood from Million Dollar Baby
" she was younger and better." Keep in mind, Maureen by 1953, had parted ways with Teach Tennant and was working with Aussie great Harry Hopman. I think Maureen's game and fitness level would have greatly improved by the late 50s. In 1957, Maureen would have been 23 years old and at her peak, In 1957, Althea was about 31 years old.
Btw, I think it was Rollo that told me that in the early 60s, Pauline Betz and Althea Gibson played two matches and even though Pauline was older and hadn't played competitive tennis for some time she was still able to win one of the matches. As I said, Althea's game was stunted because of racism.